Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Auckland day 6: Dining with Peter Gordon

[Note: I am finally home now, but there are two more posts to catch up on before we return to NYC…]

Our last night in Auckland, we made reservations for a special and fancy dinner at Dine by Peter Gordon, an outpost in the luxurious Sky City Grand Hotel. With the French Café, which was fully booked for that night, Dine is considered one of the best restaurants in Auckland. So we were excited.

We arrived wet and windblown from the winter storm/hurricane but were welcomed into the rather small dining room. It’s decorated in a bizarre fashion, with huge garish chandeliers, random wood carvings, and other artful detritus scattered about. But we were there for the food.

Our meal started with complimentary bread (yippee!). There was a heavily-accented bread man with three bread selections, two of which sounded unappealing and one whose name we couldn’t for the life of us understand. So of course we both chose that. It was a soft roll that tasted vaguely egg-ish… it was sort of disappointing, to be honest, cold and somewhat bland. Definitely among the worst bread of the trip. Oh well; it was free, and it worked to soak up my glass of Sauvignon Blanc (nights spent drinking by myself while my mom abstained: two).

Mysterious bread

After a leisurely wait, our dishes arrived. My mom ordered a gorgeous piece of salmon that came atop Jerusalem artichoke puree. I tasted some of the creative garnishes (sautéed baby spinach, apple, edamame, watercress), and they were all delicious. This dish was beautiful and my mom described it as superlative.

A truly eye-catching presentation

My own selection, an appetizer of crisped “Zany Zeus” haloumi cheese, came accompanied by shaved fennel, plantain chips, pine nuts, baby arugula, and honeycomb. This was by far one of the most flavorful dishes I have ever eaten. The different tastes just exploded in my mouth… and all these different flavors that I didn’t expect would come together melded beautifully. I could have eaten an entire trough of this dish, but alas, I was resigned to a modest portion.

The cheese is buried under the garnishes...

But of course, that left room for dessert. I chose a pear tart with caramel ice cream. It came in a bath of almond foam, which added a bit of taste and moisture. The tart was incredibly good—caramelized on top so the flaky pastry was crispy and not soggy. The pears were soft and sweet. And the ice cream melted on top of the whole thing to lend its caramel-y goodness to the whole plate. Incredible.

Pear tart, sandwiched between creamy goodness

My mom opted for the dessert sampler. It came with a portion of a black sticky rice thing (sort of like rice pudding, but much less soft… the individual grains of rice were still “al dente,” as it were. Sort of weird); a small portion of their chocolate fondant dish, which was very strong and chocolatey; and a cup of their yuzu-passionfruit tapioca pudding. This was the winner of the three. Overall there were a lot of interesting tastes here, but I preferred my pear tart.

So many crazy flavors

Celebrity chef Peter Gordon (who obviously wasn’t there that night, but whatever) provided us with a very, very good meal, and it was a fitting and “splendid” celebration of our last night in Auckland. We went to bed full and happy in preparation for a long day of traveling ahead…

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